Federalism is the mode of political organization that unites separate states or other polities within a political system in a way that allows each to maintain its own integrity. Federal systems require basic policies be made and implemented through negotiation in some form, so that all the members share the making and execution of decisions. The political principles of federal systems lays ground rules on bargaining and negotiation among several power centers; they believe that dispersed power protects individual liberties. Examples of the federation or federal state include the United States, India, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, Germany, Canada, Switzerland, Argentina, Nigeria, and Australia. Federalism is at its core a system where the dual machinery of government functions.
Features of Federalism:
1. The essential feature are the levels of governance in the country i.e. the entire power is not concentrated with one entity.
2. The levels will govern the same citizens but their jurisdiction will be different. Each level will have specific laws, legislate and execution.
3. The power and duties are listed down in the constitution guaranteeing a federal system of governance.
4. Just one level of government cannot make unilateral changes or amendments to the important and essential provisions of the constitution. Such changes must be approved by all the levels of the government to be carried through.
5. Despite the two levels of government there are possibilities of conflict. Then it will fall upon the courts or rather the judiciary to resolve this conflict.
6. Both levels have their own autonomous revenue streams despite the power sharing.
India as a federal state
India is a federal country. But not once in the constitution is the word “federation” ever mentioned. Instead what is said is that India is a “Union of States’. Actually many historians believe that India is a quasi-federal country. It means it is a federal state with some features of a unitary government.
The government of India is based on a 3 tiered system which include the union government, state government and panchayat /municipalities. A distinguishing aspect of Indian federalism is that unlike many other forms of federalism, it is asymmetric and gives limited autonomy to only some Indian states. Article 370 of the Constitution of India made special provisions for the state of Jammu and Kashmir as per its Instrument of Accession but it was revoked in 2019. Also one more aspect of Indian federalism is system of President’s Rule in which the central government (through its appointed Governor) takes control of state’s administration for certain months when no party can form a government in the state or there is violent disturbance in the state.
Image Courtesy:The Himalayan Times